Who Are These Guys?

I can’t figure out who the Indians are.

Two weeks ago, they swept the Devil Rays at home.

One week ago, they got swept by the Devil Rays, and eventually lost 7 straight.

This weekend, they beat Oakland in games started by Barry Zito, Rich Harden, and Tim Hudson. The Indians starters were Cliff Lee, Joe Dawley, and Jason Davis.

Looking past the events of the weekend, which don’t really say much about how good the Indians are, what’s more encouraging is the apparent renaissance of Jason Davis as a big-league pitcher, and the real strength of this team, the first five hitters in the lineup. And Ronnie Belliard against left-handers.

Baseball Prospectus lists VORP (Value over Replacement Player) by position. Here’s where Lawton, Vizquel, Gerut, Martinez, Hafner, and Belliard rank among American League players for their position:

Matt Lawton – 17.3 (4th)

Omar Vizquel – 14.2 (4th)

Jody Gerut – 14.7 (2nd)

Victor Martinez – 15.5 (4th)

Travis Hafner – 19.5 (3rd)

Ronnie Belliard – 20.9 (2nd)

Note that Gerut for this exercise is still considered mainly a right fielder.

Now, I’ll delve a little deeper into these top five hitters.

Versus right-handed pitching, the first five in the Indians’ order is a nightmare:

Matt Lawton – .342/.410/.556/.966

Omar Vizquel – .350/.447/.427/.874

Jody Gerut – .349/.444/.594/1.038

Victor Martinez – .333/.388/.618/1.006

Travis Hafner – .330/.414/.670/1.085

But against left-handed pitching, the nightmare is on the Indians:

Matt Lawton – .274/.343/.355/.698

Omar Vizquel – .233/.256/.329/.585

Jody Gerut – .192/.292/.256/.549

Victor Martinez – .176/.295/.333/.628

Travis Hafner – .259/.348/.345/.693

So, you see why the Indians have the major’s worst record versus a left-handed starter. The obvious conclusion is that the Indians absolutely positively need a lefty-masher. In theory, that shouldn’t be too difficult to come by, and the Indians have recently acquired two of them in Ryan Ludwick and prospect Franklin Gutierrez. But Ludwick is probably out until after the All-Star Break, and Gutierrez is a good 2 years away from any meaningful contribution. A guy who was supposed to help, Alex Escobar, hasn’t really provided anything at all. So you’re left with Ronnie Belliard, Lou Merloni at first (!), and pray for rain.

Thank goodness Kenny Rogers pitched on Sunday.

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